“I like to fight” - Rafa Benitez reacts to Everton’s comeback win against Southampton.
The Toffees manager made some crucial half-time adjustments as his side came from behind to win their opening game of the Premier League season.
Rafa Benitez cajoled his team to victory at the weekend. Photo: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
The Toffees were outplayed in front of a capacity home crowd for much of the first-half and trailed to an Adam Armstong strike at the break.
But a series of tactical adjustments from Benitez at half-time saw his side deliver a superb second-half performance as goals from Richarlison, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Dominic Calvert-Lewin secured a debut victory.
"We know it’s the beginning and we have to improve, but we’re really pleased with the reaction of the team and the support of the fans,” Benitez said.
"At half-time we changed the position of the centre-backs and the position of Richarlison. But you always have to have a little bit of luck.”
Richarlison only returned to training last week after a busy summer representing Brazil at the Copa America and the Tokyo Olympics, where he won a gold medal.
"Playing Richarlison wasn’t a gamble – he was fine,” Benitez explained. “We gave him one day to rest and made sure he was OK. He scored, so everyone’s happy.”
Benitez was a controversial choice to succeed Carlo Ancelotti as Everton manager this summer as the Spaniard spent six-years at the helm of arch-rivals Liverpool.
However, the new man in the Goodison Park hot seat was delighted with the reception he received from the home crowd.
Benitez said: “Thanks to the fans for the support for me and for the team. It’s an important situation this year with the fans behind us – I think it’ll be important for us.
"The majority of them know I like to fight, I like to compete and I will do it in all my time here.
“I am someone that likes to do his job properly and likes to win and then if you have the connection with the fans in the way we have today, I’m really happy."
Calvert-Lewin’s dream goal
Everton striker Calvert-Lewin added the gloss to the victory with a goal in front of the Gwladys Street - something he had been dreaming about pre-match.
"It’s what you want on the first day of a new season – a goal and a win. I couldn’t ask for anything more," the striker told evertonfc.com.
"We got off to a sticky start but I think at half-time we stayed cool, stayed calm and knew what we had to do. Then we executed the plan in the second half.
"The goal is what I dream about the night before the game. I think about it and I imagine how good it’d be to get a goal in front of the Gwladys Street.
"It was special. Very special. Having the fans back, I felt like I was making my debut again.
"That atmosphere, that emotion is what you play football for. Scoring goals – last season I scored a few with no fans there – that one today was my favourite by a mile.
"Now I’m looking for more consistency. Consistency scoring goals is what I’m looking to do.”
What’s next for Everton
The Toffees have a week to rest up before travelling to Leeds United next Saturday.
Marco Bielsa’s side opened their season with a 5-1 thrashing at Manchester United.